There’s three reasons for us to showcase the story of M-Farm, a startup which connects and empower agriculture with financial information.
- First, because we’re not focusing only on web technologies during our world tour of innovation, we’ve tried to showcase stories about universities in the UK and healthcare in Iran.
- Second, because we’re in Kenya, a country with a fondness for technology, especially when it addresses local needs such as agriculture.
- Last but not least, because it’s the magic of iHub, the community tech space of Nairobi, to be able to chat for a while with very different entrepreneurs.
Agriculture is both an issue and a huge opportunity for Africa. To win against under-nourishment, African countries must be able to sell at a correct price (especially when they compete against subsidized economies such as Europe of the US), and to improve their efficiency.
The African Union had its members pledge for 10% of their budget to be allocated to agriculture. In several countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Niger and Senegal) this target has been reached and even exceeded. But in Kenya, a mere 5% is allocated, when 30% of kids under 5 are still struck by undernourishment.
M-Farm connects small-scale farmers in Kenya (STAT) to the price of crops in real-time. The app, accessible through SMS (as Mpesa, in a way), consists of two features:
- Price info: it gives information on prices in 5 markets (Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kitale) for 47 products such as peas, sugar snaps, avocado, passion fruit, peanuts, potatoes, cassava and mangos
- Group selling: an advanced feature, which allows an agent to aggregate demand and supply of Central Kenya Farmers
MFarm is connected to Mpesa, Kenya’s mobile money system, which allows unbanked farmers to manage their revenues easily (other can still connect a bank account).
The value proposition if to decrease the influence of intermediaries which all take a cut. Thanks to MFarm, farmers have been able to double their sales, on which the startup takes a fee. They have now around 3 000 users on the web and 6 000 on mobile through SMS.